The relevant background facts are undisputed. The juvenile court took jurisdiction over K in January 2013 when she was less than eight months old and placed her in the legal custody of DHS. In January 2014, the court changed the permanency plan to adoption and, shortly thereafter, DHS filed petitions to terminate the parental rights of K's mother and father. In the meantime, she was placed with the foster parents. In September 2014, the court terminated the parental rights of mother and father and committed K to the legal custody and guardianship of DHS for purposes of consenting to adoption. At that time, the foster parents were K's identified adoptive resource. However, in January 2015, K's foster father slapped his six-year-old daughter in the face, and K's foster mother reported the incident to DHS. DHS removed K from the foster home, and DHS Child Protective Services (CPS) initiated a child abuse assessment (CPS assessment) under OAR chapter 413 to determine whether there was reasonable cause to believe that K's foster father had committed child abuse. K was placed with friends of the foster parents and, in accordance with a safety plan, had visitation with the foster parents.
After conducting the CPS assessment, DHS issued a "founded disposition" for child abuse under OAR 413-015-1000(2),
Based on the CPS assessment, the Kinship House evaluation, and foster father's psychological evaluation, DHS determined that it would not be in K's best interests for DHS to continue to pursue adoption with the foster parents. DHS informed the foster parents that their foster home certification was likely to be terminated, and the foster parents voluntarily withdrew their certification.
At a May 2015 permanency hearing, DHS informed the court that it was no longer considering the foster parents as an adoptive resource for K. After a June 2015 permanency hearing, the juvenile court entered the permanency judgment at issue in this appeal. In a letter opinion, the court explained that the founded disposition for child abuse was erroneous because the injuries caused by foster father to his daughter did not rise to
Accordingly, the court concluded in the permanency judgment that DHS was not in compliance with the current plan of adoption and ordered DHS to take specific corrective action: "DHS is ordered to: take actions necessary to correct DHS's earlier mistake, including restoring the foster/adoptive parent's certifications, reversing its incorrect legal conclusion, and taking action consistent with [the] correct legal conclusion." The "legal conclusion" referenced in the judgment is the "founded disposition" discussed at length in the court's letter opinion.
DHS appeals the permanency judgment, challenging the permanency judgment to the extent that it orders DHS to reverse its founded disposition and to recertify the foster parents.
To set DHS's appellate argument in context, we provide a basic overview of the statutory and administrative schemes that govern CPS assessments and DHS foster home certifications. When DHS receives a report of child abuse and neglect, it must, among other things, initiate an investigation "to determine the nature and cause of the abuse of the child." ORS 419B.020(1)(a). To implement that duty, DHS has adopted administrative rules that govern when and how CPS conducts assessments of reports of child abuse and neglect. See OAR 413-015-0105 ("The purposes of Child Protective Services are to identify unsafe children and to assure protection of children after a report of alleged child abuse or neglect is received by a screener."); see also OAR 413-015-0400-413-015-0440 (establishing CPS assessment procedure and requirements). Once CPS has conducted its assessment under the administrative rules, it must determine the appropriate disposition of the assessment. OAR 413-015-0440. OAR 413-015-1000 provides three possible dispositions: founded, unfounded, or unable to determine. When a CPS assessment results in a founded disposition (i.e., "there is reasonable cause to believe that child abuse or neglect occurred"), DHS must provide the affected party notice and an opportunity to request review of that disposition. OAR 413-010-0700; OAR 413-010-0721. DHS's administrative rules allow a party to seek additional levels of review within the agency, and DHS must provide notice of the decisions that result from that additional review. See OAR 413-010-0735 ("Local Child Welfare Office Review of CPS Founded Dispositions"); OAR 413-010-0745 ("Central Office Review of CPS Founded Dispositions"). Ultimately, a founded disposition is an administrative action by DHS that is subject to judicial review under the APA. See
Similarly, foster home certification is governed by administrative rules promulgated by DHS under its statutory authority to investigate the qualifications of foster care applicants. See ORS 418.625 — 418.645 (authorizing DHS approval and supervision of foster
As noted, DHS argues that, because a founded disposition of a CPS assessment and an order revoking or denying a foster home certification are administrative actions subject to review under the APA, the juvenile court erred when it ordered DHS in a permanency judgment to change the founded disposition and recertify the foster parents. We agree.
"When the APA provides for review of an agency action, the APA is the exclusive means of reviewing the validity of that action."
Portion of permanency judgment ordering the Department of Human Services to undo founded disposition and restore foster parents' certification reversed; otherwise affirmed.